Saturday, October 25, 2014

Roster reloaded

Despite losing three starters from last season’s Big South Championship team, including the second-leading scorer in program history, Devon Brown, the goals for the Liberty women’s basketball team remain the same.

“Our goal is not just to win the conference,” Head Coach Carey Green said. “Not just to get into the NCAA (tournament). Our higher goal is to honor and glorify God.”

FACILITATOR — Emily Frazier led the Lady Flames in assists last season despite missing the final eight games. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

FACILITATOR — Emily Frazier led the Lady Flames in assists last season despite missing the final eight games. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Liberty has won the Big South Conference 15 of the past 17 seasons and was picked to win the conference for the 16th time in 17 years by the head coaches and media members of the Big South Conference in a preseason poll.

The Lady Flames return only four upperclassmen in redshirt junior point guard Emily Frazier, junior guards Reagan Miller and Ellee Rollins and the lone senior, forward Jasmine Gardner. However, Green is excited to see what the young players have to offer the team this season.

“Obviously we have got to develop a new identity,” Green said. “(W)e’ve got some very good scorers on the team. We have some good athletes on the team, but it’s always hard to replace a 2,000-point scorer (in Devon Brown). … We’re working as a team, and hopefully that scoring punch will be picked up from a team dynamic.”

Frazier, who averaged 5.3 points per game and led the team in assists with 4.7 per game, is one of the players expected to be a team leader this season.

Frazier was named to the Big South preseason all-conference team by the conference coaches and media. However, Frazier said she does not feel any added burden from her preseason accolades, but instead feels the need to be a team leader for the inexperienced Lady Flames.

“(I have) my experience in games and tight situations, so I hope to help them know it’s the same pressures as high school, and just don’t let the hype of college mess with you,” Frazier said. “So I feel a lot more pressure to be a leader, but we have a lot of leaders on this team.”

Despite the youthfulness from the squad, both Green and Frazier emphasized the unity and chemistry the team has already built.

“If we can bring the unity and chemistry we have off the floor to the floor and everyone stay conditioned … I think we can be one of the best teams Liberty has ever been,” Frazier said. “I’m really excited about all of our new players.”

Sophomore center Ashley Rinninger is the team’s returning leading scorer from last season, averaging 6.9 points per game. She is also the second leading rebounder returning from last season with 6.4 per game, only trailing Gardner, who averaged 7.3 rebounds per game.

Liberty’s nonconference schedule includes multiple matchups versus teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year, such as Fresno State and Saint Joseph’s. Other noteworthy matchups include the University of Virginia, University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Seton Hall University.

“I’ve been here for 15 years, and we’ve played better teams, but not a collection of better teams,” Green said. “Game after game, we (play) several teams that were in postseason tournaments. … So it’s going to be critical that some freshmen grow up really quick.”

The Lady Flames will kick off their season in search for a third consecutive Big South title Friday, Nov. 8 as they travel to take on the Charlotte 49ers.

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